Authors: Moez Baklouti*(1), Ph.D. & Zakaria Namsi, M. A.(2)

(1) Moez Baklouti is a Faculty member (Associate Professor) at Tunis University and the Research Unit Head of Tunis Sports Academy located in Vancouver, Canada.

(2) Zakaria Namsi is a Faculty member (Assistant Professor) at Ksar Said Sports and Physical Education Institute, Tunis.

*Corresponding Author:
Moez Baklouti, Ph. D.
14065 77A Ave Surrey, V3W2X2 BC Canada


This study examines the conflict between liberty and security in sporting mega-events by ensuring that prohibited items do not enter an Olympic Games venue while guaranteeing service excellence. A random sample of spectators and journalists (N= 1081) from Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics responded to a survey about customer service and security in the event. Chi-square tests for two independent samples were used along with Crosstabs procedures to test the differences in service and security between journalists and spectators.

The results revealed that a successful security model in mega-sport events is based on two pillars: service excellence that depends on the time spent at the portal, the communication with customers, the kind of staff serving in the venue, and mainly on the cooperation between all security corps in charge.


Sport managers’ focus on security became after the New York terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 the main concern of sport management, especially in the field of sport event organization. Other aspects, such as, organizational theory, sport marketing, sport facility management, sport law and policy, economics and finance, gender and diversity, have been classified less important, because they cannot stand in the absence of security. In the last few decades, there has been a growing concern regarding individuals’ safety, because the 9/11 incident showed that terrorists, who hit The World Trade Center and killed around 3000 people, could land with those 4 planes on 4 stadiums and harm 400000 spectators. Such scenario proved that the majority of our sport venues were and are still not protected. As an example of the difficulty of articulating the concept, Rothschild (1995) describes human security philosophically as part of both a broadening and a deepening of what we once viewed as security. She argues that the focus on state security must be extended to include supranational systems as well as the individual condition,and the range of included harms must be broadened to include serious threats to either. Also, the responsibility to ensure security must be diffused to include local governments, international agreements, NGO’s [non-governmental organization], public opinion, and the financial market. Although not an explicit definition, this conceptualization provides an example of how narrow the traditional paradigm has been as well as how complex the expansion of the concept can become” (Owen, 2004).

However, the controversy over the security concept leads sport managers to exaggerate and reach extreme resolutions that may harm the dignity of the people and threaten the human rights value. So, how can we reach a compromise whereby we protect our spectators by avoiding any prohibited item to get into the venues while ensuring an excellent customer service? “ ForMontesquieu, this was a singular focus on freedom and the perceived rights of individuals over the dictated security provided by the state. Security for Adam Smith meant the protection of the individual from ‘sudden or violent attack on one’s person or property’–this security being the most important prerequisite for a successful and ‘opulent’ society.Similarly, Condorcet described a societal contract in which the security of the individual was the central principle” (Owen, 2004).

This discussion leads us to better understand the role of each individual in the security process and to determine the responsibility of the highest rank of government officials to the common security agent in charge of a simple task during the sport event. “For Hobbes, it meant little whether aman’s insecurity was at the hands of a local thief, or an invading army.Protection from either, he believed, was the absolute responsibility of the state. For this protection, the citizen should give up any and all individual rights to his country, his protector— security prevailing over liberty” (Ullman, 1983). Liberty stands behind a mutual race between the anticipation of security measures and terrorists’ up-to-date attempts to transgress these boundaries, “ terrorists are explicitly in the business of uncertainty. They play on randomness to keep whole populations in fear,anticipation, and disestablishment. They precipitate the urge for more certainty, expressed through escalating security measures” (Ericson &Doyle, 2004).

The full protection of people and facilities in sport events cannot be reached instantly, rather it is a long-term and highly complex process requiring considerable data gathering. “ The context of terrorism has relevance to sport events, and the potential and realized impacts on the management of contemporary sport events have been profound” (Taylor &Toohey, 2006). For this reason, sport managers are dealing in each event with different platforms, new criteria of the hosting country, its own history with terrorism, its prior experience with events, and mainly its proper philosophy of the security model whether the so-called hard model, or the soft model, or even an intermediate model. Therefore, “by understanding the risk society and what this means in for sport event management, we can challenge dominant sport management paradigms and provide an emergent theoretical background by which to understand the impact of terrorism on sport event spectators”(Toohey & Taylor, 2008).


From this perspective, sport mega-events (SMEs) have become global occasions of economic, political, and social importance, for its impact on tourism (Degen, 2004; Euchner, 1999), and international status (Ahlert, 2006). To observe the aspects of SMEs, social development and cultural politics were delighted by (Close, Askew, & Xin, 2006; Marivoet, 2006; Roche, 2000, 2003;Whitson & Horne, 2006). “Sport mega-event security, in itself, is a complex assemblage of social control mechanisms that is undergoing profound change, notably in terms of costs, personnel, the rising influence of private security, the perceived dangers of terrorism, and the focus on indigenous crime” (Giulianotti & Klauser, 2010).

We should be alert that critical infrastructure (CI) is a vital component to develop any security strategy. This strategy must be based on continuous prevention regardless if the event takes place, or not because the reduction of certain pattern makes EMs more comfortable vis-à-vis the international instances. International Sport Institutions (ISI; i.e., IOC, FIFA, NFL) coerce complying with the basic requirements to hold an event, which give a packed confidence of safety and security in mega events. However, prototypes must respect the psychological states of spectators, because they are attending a show and provide an excellent customer service in sport events. The security process in the airports, for example, cannot be compared with the one of entering the venues. Even if the physical objective and the manipulation are the same, the traveler is somehow forced to make his/her trip; however, the sport spectator attends the games for fun, and the security measures should not affect this purpose and intervene with the human rights standards.

These norms are valid for different event sizes and for multiple levels of broadcasting. According to Gibson (1998), event sport tourism refers to tourists who travel to watch sporting events. Examples of event sport tourism may include events, such as, the Olympic Games, World Cup, Professional Golf Association (PGA) tournaments, and events related to professional sport teams or top U.S. college basketball and football teams.

To frame the theory context of our study, we consider SME with two essential grounds. First, the socially contested domain, that is develop the concept of the security field, as derived particularly from the sociology of Bourdieu (1990, 1993, pp. 72-76; see Wacquant, 1989), and as adapted and extended by Crossley (2002, p. 674). Second, risk theories here would include the concept of “reflexive modernization” (Beck, 1992; Lash, Szerszynski, &Wynne, 1996), Foucauldi an thinking regarding new forms of“governmentality” for shaping public actions (O’ Malley,2004), and new perceptions or cultural senses of risk within late-modern societies (Boyne, 2003; Lupton, 1999; Slovic, 2000; Tulloch, 2006). “Risk theory in this regard helps to clarify and to explicate a wide range of social processes associated with sport mega-event securitization: for example, how specific security risks and “risk groups” are identified by relevant stakeholders at different sport mega-events, how security institutions(both public and private) implement specific risk-management techniques within particular contexts and how risk legacies remain in post sport mega-event contexts” (Giulianotti & Klauser, 2010).

Critical Infrastructure

Moteff & Parfomak (2004) define “critical infrastructure as systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of these matters.” As such, critical infrastructure is a highly complex phenomenon. In fact, critical infrastructure for sport venues is interconnected with other systems: facilities, technologies, networks, assets and services essential to the health, safety, security, or economic well-being of citizens, and the effective functioning of government. That is why, it is necessary for sport managers to be updated with the protection strategies provided by the government; unfortunately, “few sporting event organizers use strategic risk management plans. The main hindrance appears to be a lack of information and expertise available on risk management for sporting events. Risk management plans varied to a large extent, which may be due to the absence of accepted national standards for managing risk for sporting events and to the heterogeneous nature of sporting events” (Eisenhauer, 2005).

The major gap in CI lies in the difference in security strategies between the public sector managed by the government and the private sector owned by individuals or institutions. Whereas, “over 85 percent of the critical infrastructure in the United States is controlled by the private sector”(Forest, 2004), it seems that only 15 percent of the facility controlled by the government obeys to strict norms and control.

Indeed, it is worth highlighting that the National Strategy and Action Plan for CI establishes a risk-based approach for strengthening the resiliency and demands billion of dollars. Sport facilities also need an enormous segment to mend its vulnerabilities. “It has been estimated that organizers of sporting events worldwide spend over $2 billion perannum on security, although in years where “blanket security” is required for major events,this figure can rise to $6 billion” (Coaffee & Wood, 2006).

Safety and Security in Mega Events

Governments fear terrorist attacks and political demonstrations during sport mega events, mainly when we consider all Olympics have witnessed terrorist threats, “because there have been 168 terrorist attacks related to sport between 1972 and 2004” (Clark, 2004; Kennelly, 2005). “Since 9/11,the increased threat of terrorism has brought risk management to the forefront of mega-sport-event planning and has resulted in a range of new security measures for sport spectators and tougher safety standards for organizers” (Toohey & Taylor, 2008).

More importantly, protecting CIs must endure with the effective training of staff members and provide the necessary training to enhance performances in skill development processes. Training should frame incidents’ management,risk management and practices of protective measures, safety and security strategies, and business continuity and recovery principles. As “ threats of terrorism and political violence are often not only seen as to endanger the athletes, spectators and local population but also as a symbolic and political embarrassment—and hence financial risk— for host nations and organizing institutions” (Giulianotti & Klauser, 2010).

Atkinson and Young (2002) provide a general explanation of the nexus between sport and terrorism: for many reasons, individual terrorists or terrorist organizations might find suitable targets in athletes participating in games, spectators attending the events, or selected corporate sponsors of sports contests. Especially in those situations where athletic contests draw sizable international audiences in geographical settings already embroiled in strife, sport can be utilized as a vehicle for political sparring and waging and disseminating forms of political violence against others.

Whereas usually audiences attend sport mega events for a noble cause, such as, to apprehend peace principals and to spread camaraderie among people coming from all over the world. This kind of image gets disfigured in the presence of a terrorist act, because an act of terrorism leads to the opposite facade of people’s desire and turns the situation into a deeply dramatic scenario. Researchers are actually focused on the link between sport events and terrorism; “most of these studies have been located in discourses of sport sociology, psychology, and criminology, investigating the cognitive, affective, and overt behavioral aspects of violence. Implications drawn for sport management have primarily been associated with crowd control, risk management and athlete management” (Rubin, 2004; Whisenant,2003).(connect these lines)

For this particular reason, “terrorists also plan their acts to get as much media exposure as possible, thus giving attention to their cause”(Whisenant, 2003). The Olympics have grown with the increase of television broadcasting, “it is logical that terrorists will choose methods of mass destruction, such as bombings, and target transport or places where people gather, such as sport stadia. These reasons explain why mega sport events, such as the Olympic Games, are seen as possible terrorist targets” (Toohey andTaylor, 2008).

As a consequence, “more recently, the Olympic security paradigm has shifted. It now augments the rings of steel attitude, to one that has also encouraged resilience, both physically and managerially, through more counter terrorism measures and dispersing security responsibilities to different agencies and governments, rather than just organizing committees”(Coaffee & Wood, 2006). First, security from the gate should prevent unauthorized entrance to the venue and perform the following duties: keep prohibited items out of the venue, secure perimeters around the venue, conduct security inspections, verify tickets and authenticate credentials. This is a final check that follows extra-large security procedures: no fly zone, protecting access from water, precautions through roads, control of high buildings, preventing electronic and internet attacks, and‘sweeping’ all facilities designated to athletes, media people and spectators.

Indeed, “in planning and executing an attack, terrorists spend a lot of time selecting the target, analyzing and assessing opportunities and vulnerabilities as well as conducting their own research to secure the attack’s successful execution. Considering the time frame and activities associated with hosting the event, the threat to the World Cup starts with the building and renovation of sport facilities. On a strategic level, being able to gain access to plans of stadiums and actual access to facilities during the event takes time and careful planning, but contributes to the success full execution of an attack” (Botha, 2010).

Although infusing the event preparation with high level of security, such pact could be the reason for jamming the host country to gain the organization,the high expenses may be the cause for this failure. Johnson (2008) affirms that “successful security operations at recent games raise questions about whether the high levels of expenditure are proportionate to the level of threat. The security budget is often cited as a reason why many cities will not host the Games. It has also been used by one city to justify their decision not to host the Winter Olympics even after it had been awarded”.

Customer Service in Sporting Venues

Enhancing customer service by event managers (EMs) is now included in the requirements of human rights institutions, for spectators may not be treated as criminals when attending a sport show. The moment of entering a game venue is one of the most sensitive sensations for spectators. This feeling amplifies with the size of the event; therefore, the more important the event is, the greater its historical dimension becomes for the spectator. That is why, dealing with this situation is delicate, because EMs aim at delivering excellent customer service while ensuring strict security rules. Most researchers agree that “one way that a sport event can be differentiated from another event is on the basis of providing a high quality of service. One could argue that it is the only way for event planners to gain a competitive advantage” (Dwyer & Fredline, 2008). The expectations of spectators regarding the event service are associated with the importance of the event itself and with the EM before preparing their customers for admittance procedures to enter the venue. Therefore, “providing the visitor with a superior experience is based upon the event planners’ ability to help coordinate or provide a bundle of high quality services that meet or exceed the expectations of the guests visiting the city. Sport tourism is a service industry which is influenced by the quality of services provided”(Kouthouris & Alexandris, 2005).

Customer Satisfaction

“Customer satisfaction is defined as a pleasurable fulfillment response toward a good, service, benefit, or reward” (Oliver, 1997). Customer satisfaction has been considered as an interpreter of intentions to attend future sporting events (Cronin et al., 2000; Kwon, Trail, &Anderson; 2005; Wakefield & Blodgett, 1996), it has been understood in relation to service quality (Cronin & Taylor, 1992; Dobholkar, Shepherd,& Thorpe, 2000; Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1994), and increases the likelihood of enhanced customer loyalty (Cronin et al., 2000; Oliver,1997). Greenwell et al. (2002) examined how customers’ perceptions of as port facility within the context of service experience influence customer satisfaction. The findings suggest the customers’ perceptions of the physical facility were moderately associated with customer satisfaction.

Putting everyone who wanted access to the venue through a magnetic detector and searching their bags (mag-and-bag) is actually quietly accepted because sport customers know well that sport venues are not excluded from terrorist attacks and everyone will be subject to airport-type security with mag-and-bag and X-ray machines. “These processes functioned according to an agreed level of service; for example, a person queuing for security checking should not wait longer than three minutes. The level of service achieved depended on allocating adequate resources to that process, for example, by allocating 20mag-and-bag security gates to a venue entry”. (Beis et al., 2006).

Although event spectators recognize that these security measures are first established for their protection, they are concerned about the class of people dealing with them at the gates, spectators are undoubtedly anxious when treated by police officers, or military soldiers. Therefore, the major concern of spectators is no longer the way they have been welcomed, nor the security check time, it is rather that civilians have to do with officials while attending a show. The recent security procedures and techniques are far from being complex,for instance, “in terms of the Olympic Games, the variety of tactics used have included the deployment of Olympic police and military units to dedicated Olympic units to patrol the host city and country; the creation of Olympic Intelligence Centers to monitor information and coordinate responses; the formation of international Olympic Security task forces to share information between nations; the increasing use of surveillance, including digital surveillance to augment people; and the implementation of progressively more complex technology to prevent unauthorized access” (Johnson, 2008).

Service quality

Service quality is the conformity to the standard required by ISI. The organization committee has a propensity to achieve all the requirements and to satisfy the customer’s perceptions of that service. The consumer satisfaction literature views these expectations as predictions about what is likely to happen during an impending transaction, whereas the service quality literature views them as desires or wants expressed by the consumer(Kandampully, 2002). Grönroos (1984) defines service quality as “the outcome of an evaluation process where the consumer compares his expectations with the service he perceived he has received.”

Debates lay many concepts to measure service quality. Grönroos (1984)solicited technical quality for what the consumer receives and functional quality to answer how the consumer receives the service. Burns, Graefe, &Absher (2003) focused on the disagreement whether the consumer’s‘desires’ or ‘ideal standard’ should be measured.

Lehtinen and Lehtinen (1991) proposed two approaches to the analysis of service quality and its dimensions. The first approach contains three dimensions consisting of physical quality, interactive quality, and corporate quality. The second approach to the analysis of service quality and its dimensions was composed of two dimensions: process quality and output quality.

A positive experience for spectators let them return for future games. Therefore, EMS make spectators enjoy spending time at the stadium. Various attributes are crucial to attain the constancy of spectators in attending games: quality and outcome of the game, cleanliness of the arena, security in the parking area, seat location, parking location, and cleanliness of the restrooms (Kelley & Turley, 2001). However, venue access is actually a pillar in service quality. Venue access is also different from an event to another and from a country system to another and is mainly managed each time by staff, by civilian employees in the reception, or by official security people.

According to Kelley & Turley (2001), service quality attributes are employees, price, facility access, concessions, fan comfort, game experience,show time, convenience, and smoking. The evaluation of service quality depends on knowing and comparing price, employee action, ambiance stimulation, program evaluation, privilege appreciation and security. Chelladurai and Chang (2000) cite three targets of quality evaluations: a) the core service, b) the physical context such as the physical facilities and equipment in which the service is provided, and c) the interpersonal interactions in the performance of the service.

Authors classify service quality in special dimensions, but focus on the outcome quality in determining the overall service quality with search and experience outcome quality. Brady and Cronin’s (2001) model of service quality has three primary dimensions: a) interaction quality, b) physical environment quality, and c) outcome quality. Ko and Pastore (2004) propose a dimensional model of service quality in the recreation industry composed of program quality, interaction quality, and outcome quality.

Human Rights

“Anti-terrorism laws in a democratic state ruled by law only serve their purpose if they improve the ability of the state to defend itself against terrorist attacks, without excessively restricting the civil rights of the citizens” (Meyer, 2004). The controversy over the balance between liberty and security highlights that jeopardizing freedom for the sake of security creates the tension between security policies and freedom security prevailing over liberty. “The vague definition of public order and thus what may breach it jeopardizes not only the ideally equal implementation of the law in a given territory, but also the protection of civil rights and liberties in that the consequent weakening of the principle of legality entails that of the principle of proportionality and in some cases the principle of accountability” (Tsoukala, 2007).

Liberties are not established by the law and rules only, but are applied by agents who may not conform their practices to those rules; it is not about a misinterpretation but about entity philosophy of priorities’categorization, “while the defenders of human rights see in this shift the symptom of an ongoing redefinition of the power relations between the executive and the people or the (re)positioning of the state and civil agents in the political and security fields (or both), the executive branch refuses to see in it any jeopardizing of civil rights and liberties” (Tsoukala,2007).

Besides economic and sport developments, a mega event serves as a historical landmark and brings prestige and prosperity to the host country.“Research into mega-events and developing nations has been centered about questions of development, place promotion, signaling, identity building and human rights and political liberalization” (Black and Bezanson 2004; Black and van der Westhuizen 2004).

Hosting sport mega events is the responsibility of the government. In case of errors, such burden has been criticized from the international opinion and has also been disparaged by domestic politicians. “Because absolute security cannot be attained, politicians worry about leaving gaps in prevention, because this could have the side effect of making them take responsibility for the harms inflicted the next time. Therefore, politicians tend to maximize their security preparation, at the price of more restrictions on citizens’ freedoms and civil rights than are necessary for effective prevention” (Meyer, 2004).

The protection of human rights must be imbedded in the strategy for the effective combat against terrorism and it cannot be successful safety if there is a lack of respect for human beings and the values of freedom. “The subject of counter-terrorism and human rights has attracted considerable interest since the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) in 2001. In Security Council (2003) and later resolutions, the Council has said that States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, and should adopt such measures in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law” (CTC, 2003).

Precarious balance between security and freedom

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (5th Amendment in the USA) obliges the state to prove criminal behavior and not to take any action against a person suspected of a crime, so everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Ashworth (1998) has rightly suggested that the notion of balance is a rhetorical device of which one must be extremely wary. “Balance” is self-evidently a worthy goal and, thus, acts as a substitute for real argument. Waldron (2003) has identified a problematic connotation of quantity and precision in the language of balance, including the assumption that the relation between security and liberty is a zero-sum game.

Perhaps a separate definition of security and liberty cannot find an intersection that satisfies both; however, we do not need to identify security with liberty. An American hurdler explains, “Every step you take, there are guards with machine guns in the Olympic Village, I know they’re there to protect you, but it’s scary. I’m not used to it, so it makes me cringe a little bit. It wasn’t like this at all in Sydney” (May, 2004).

Foucault (1991, 1997, 2000a, 2000b) has shown how liberalism enacts another form of political rationality that sets mechanisms for a ‘society of security’ in place rather than resist the push to security in the name of liberty. Johnson (2008) further supported: “The Atlanta bombing demonstrated that massive security investments cannot guarantee the safety of the public”Authors, politicians, managers, and philosophers have been conferring to challenge the idea of an equilibrium between security and liberty “to different political projects for the shaping of the modern state, the value of security remained the same. The difference between absolutism and liberalism is, therefore, not that where one stresses security the other stresses liberty; the difference does not lie in the tipping of a mythical ‘balance’ between liberty and security in one direction rather than another. Rather, the difference lies in the fact that absolutists saw no need to identify security with liberty” (Neocleous, 2007). “Much of the discussion concerning the theory and practices surrounding security centers on the relationship between these and their consequences for liberty. Either explicitly or implicitly, the assumption is that we must accept that we have to forgo a certain amount of liberty in our desire for security. The general claim is that in seeking security, states need to constantly limit the liberties of citizens, and that the democratic society is one which has always aimed to strike the right ‘balance’ between liberty and security” (Neocleous, 2007).

Is ‘Vancouver 2010’ a soft Model?

Security became the main condition to host the Olympic Games and other large scale sporting events. Winning these games’ elections for any country is also conditioned by the promotion of human rights and liberties, such events are great occasions to push dictatorship regimes, leading to an improvement in the human rights movement.

“The human rights organization ‘Human Rights Watch’ hopes, that the attention China will get as a result of the Olympic Games will help to improve the human rights situation” (OG & HR, 2008). Gill &Worden (2009) state as an example: “Given the serious ongoing human rights concerns in Russia, we respectfully reiterate our call for the IOC to establish a standing human rights committee or similar mechanism to monitor the adherence by Olympic host countries to basic human rights standards.”

The venue of Salt Lake City Winter Games was heavily populated by officials from the army, the police and many security companies. It is very understandable that ‘there is too much security’ because the Games were hosted a few months after 9/11. “The Athens security operations cost€1 billion, and represented more than 10% of the total direct costs. The expenditure was almost four times greater than for Sydney. There were approximately twice as many security personnel available in 2004 compared to the summer games four years before” (Johnson, 2008). ‘Athens2004’ meant a higher level of security than ever before provided for the games. However, unlike Greece, Italy’s ‘Turin 2006’ has more than enough military personnel and special forces to deal with the threat of all possible terrorist attacks, ranging from bombs to planes and even weapons of mass destruction. The Chinese government in “Beijing 2008” has implemented extraordinary security measures, including the mobilization of the military. “Security has not been thought to require special justification because in many ways it seems preferable to punishment” (Zedner, 2003). The cited Olympics were known as “hard security models” adoption,either the Games were after 9/11, or the political system is based on military management (i.e., China under a communist regime).

Vancouver Winter Games opted for what we call a “mild security model” because the security company charged in flowing spectators to the venues (Contemporary Security Canada) and used civilians to perform mag-and-bag and X-Ray machines. Thus, spectators, while entering to watch the games, are not facing military people or police officers (Figure 1). The second‘layer or belt’ is managed by security supervisors. Then, the role of the police officer (third layer) comes in case of prohibited items found with the intention to infiltrate the venue. In this situation, a male factor is treated with the right corps, and human rights rule is respected. The timing goal set up for the security procedures in the gate is thirty seconds perspectator. The training of screeners, X-Ray operators, and their supervisors was based on ensuring full security vocation while providing gentle spectator access through their portals with the finest performances and an excellent customer service.

Figure 1

It is worth highlighting that the Special Reporter on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while countering terrorism, operating under the new Human Rights Council, works to identify, exchange, and promote best practices on measures to counter terrorism that respect human rights and fundamental freedom. Security agents represent a brilliant facet to implement the respect for human rights. Sport event spectators admire the fact that they are well informed and welcomed and the security system guarantees 100% of their safety. With a purpose to reach a complete enjoyment for the sports show customers, such “model” is essentially based on two pillars: security and service excellence (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2 – Tools concept for Sport’s Show Joy through Security& Service Excellence.

This study focuses on the conflict between “liberty” and“security” and what model sport event organizers should adopt to match the characteristics of the host country? Then, what are the tools to provide quality service for the spectators? Do timing, security people, and quality information guarantee the comfort desired by the customers? Johnson (2008) also considered the timing and asked: “The organizers of the Turin games advised spectators to leave more than three hours to enter some venues for the 2006 winter games. Such delays raise important questions about how long it is reasonable to expect people to wait in order for security measures to be completed”. Moreover, who is responsible for taking the security measures to prepare, prevent, deter, or delay a future terrorist attack on a sporting event or stadium? How people deem about the concept of ‘CI’?Ultimately, what are the means to raise the trust that spectators are fully protected while attending the games?

These research questions culminate to our main hypothesis: A security model in sport events should respect both the full protection of the venue and the value of human rights while welcoming spectators and subsequently:

  • Providing spectators’ service excellence depends on the time spent at the portal before entering the venue, the quality of communication, the serving staff, and the previously provided information regarding the security measures.
  • The success of a security model in mega sport events is highly conditioned by the cooperation between all corps in charge of this mission, such as government, police, local city head, athletic directors, private security companies, and the structure in use.


Supported by the literature review a total of ten questions were generated to represent two items: (A) ‘Customer service in the event’ and (B)‘Security in the event’.


The study sample covered 1081 respondents (Table 1), composed of 286 journalists and 795 spectators. Journalists were contacted before the games start at MMC, during the competitions in the venues (indoors or outdoors) and in MMC, and after the games in MMC again. Spectators were met on the opening and closing ceremonies, during the competitions in the venues (indoors or outdoors).

<imgalt=”Table 1- The study sample (Journalists & Spectators) for ‘Vancouver 2010’ Winter Olympics.”src=”Desktop/Table 1- The study sample (Journalists & Spectators) for ‘Vancouver 2010’ Winter Olympics..png”width=”673″ height=”329″ />

Table 1- The study sample (Journalists & Spectators) for‘Vancouver 2010’ Winter Olympics.

Media people in the study sample were represented by 75 journalists from Canada (26.2%), 45 journalists from USA (15.7%), 27 journalists from China, 25 journalists from Russia and 15 journalists from Germany. The percentages of spectators are as follows: 53.7% Canadians, 20.5% Americans, 5.5% Chinese, and 3.1% French (Table 2).

<imgalt=”Table 2- Countries of journalists and spectators with classification and percentages”src=”Desktop/Table 2- Countries of journalists and spectators with classification and percentages.jpg”width=”644″ height=”552″ />

Table 2- Countries of journalists and spectators with classification and percentages


Respondents were informed that they are helping a scientific research regarding the service and security in the event. Trained volunteers (event services) of the organization committee conducted the survey in their day-off by contacting the spectator after he/she takes seat and before the game starts to guide the respondent, and as tested before, the tête-à-tête takes six to seven minutes. Extra information was included in the survey content regarding the citizenship and the gender of the respondent. The respondents were randomly assigned for City Venues: Vancouver Olympic Center, Pacific Coliseum, Cypress Mountain, Canada Hockey Place, UBC Thunderbird Arena, Richmond Olympic Oval,and Main Media Center, or for Whistler Venues: Whistler Creekside, Whistler Olympic Park, and The Whistler Sliding Center, which created relatively equal samples for each condition.


The questionnaire consists of items. Item A measures the comfortable time judged when dealing with the security procedures at the venue gates (A1 &A2), the information about the regulations regarding the entrance of the venue and the cooperation (A3 & A4), and the evaluation of service quality provided by the security people (A5). In item (B), the focus was on the security filter met at the portal when entering the venue (B6 & B7), the concept of ‘CI’ (B8), responsibility measures (B9), and the level of security felt by spectators (B10).

The response format for all questions was the five-point Likert scale, with the following values: 1 (Strongly disagree), 2 (Disagree), 3 (Neutral), 4 (Agree), and 5 (Strongly agree). Other five-point summated rating scale used the following format: 1 (Insecure), 2 (Somehow not secure), 3 (Don’tknow), 4 (Somehow secure), and 5 (Secure). In B6 and B9, attendees determine and classify responsibilities.

To determine the content validity of this survey, three experts—university professor specialist in sport event organization, a mega EM, and professional in customer service and marketing—were invited to provide feedback concerning the conceptual appropriateness of the items. Based on this feedback, modifications were made. Then, a pilot test was made and granted a reliability coefficient of .92, the test-retest had a two-week interval for the eighteen spectators who attended hockey games with the same security setup for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. There was an eight-day interval for the seven reporters, because MMC (Main Media Center at Canada place Vancouver) was not operational beyond this range. Based on the relevant results of validity and reliability, the questions were judged to be conceptually appropriate.


The data collected were analyzed using chi-square analyses (X2) and mean scores (M) and standard deviations were calculated (SD). A level of significance of .05 was used to test the results of the study.

Customer service in the event

The study gave a special importance to the timing as a component of quality service. The time spent at the portal for the security procedures before entering the venue was 30 seconds (sec.) per person and Games Security Screening (GSS) targeted it to ensure the visitors’ comfort and security.

Approximately 71% of journalists (M = 95.33; SD = 35.726) declared that they spent less than 30 sec. to get into the venue, but spectators (M =265.00; SD = 301.448) were not in this range because 76% judged that they spent over 30 seconds and even over one minute. The difference between groups is very significant (X2: 328.606, df: 2, p-value: 0). Conformably, the timing cited above influenced the position of journalists (M = 95.33;SD =38.280), half of whom notice that the time granted to the security procedures is reasonable, but the majority of spectators (M = 265.00;SD = 301.448) claimed that the time is uncomfortable. The difference between groups is very significant (X2: 365.561, df: 2, p-value: 0).

Statistics showed a significant difference between both categories of our samples (X2: 208.69, df: 1, p-value: 0); ¾ of journalists (M = 125.00;SD = 70.711) confirmed they were vaguely informed about the regulations regarding the entrance of the venue before they arrived. However, 4/5 of the spectators (M =317.00; SD = 277.186) stated they were not well informed. Regarding cooperation before coming to the venue, results showed that 51% of the journalists (M = 118.50; SD = 4.950) took some precautions and the majority (82%) of spectators (M = 363.50; SD =352.846) did, too. The difference between groups is again significant (X2:208.69, df: 1, p-value: 0).

Although journalists (M = 95.33; SD = 85.043) are satisfied with the service quality provided by the security people (65%), spectators (M =265.00; SD = 56.956) expressed equal evaluations about that service ranging between the dissatisfactory, average, and satisfactory judgements. However, the difference between groups remains significant (X2: 161.478, df: 2,p-value: 0).

Security in the event

While going through security portals, the study population (N: 1081) noticed that the security people they met are mostly “mixed corps” or“no official,” with the following ratio: 39% and 20%, respectively. The respondents did not recognize security people in charge (M = 216.2; SD =124.728), with a percentage of 18%, and no more than 12% distinguished“security company” and 9% “official police” (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Figure 3- Security people recognition by respondents

Respondents (787 of 814) confirmed that the security filter at the portalranges between hard to very strong. Statistics confirm that there is no significant difference between journalists and spectators (X2: 0.039, df: 1,p-value: 0.8434).

“The political agenda is ruling the concept of ‘critical infrastructure’ instead of the technical scientific conception”. After investigating into this new design, the majority of our respondents(82.2%) approved of the exposed idea. No significant difference between groups(X2: 1.899, df: 1, p-value: 0.1681) is noticed.

The rank ratio of the classification (Figure 4) made by the respondents in each venue showed that journalists and spectators consider the Local Police or Mounted Police the first people responsible for implementing the security measures to prevent, deter, or delay a future terrorist attack on a sporting event or stadium. Respondents also agreed to classify local city head in the second rank. Journalists, however, gave more importance to Politicians in the Government for the cited task unlike the spectators. Private Security Company was classified fourth for this responsibility. Finally, respondents determined the Private Security Company and the structure in use as last.

Figure 4

Figure 4 – Classification for structures taking the security measures.

When attending these winter Olympics, respondents felt safe at all venues,but with minor differences. The difference between groups is significant (X2:6.951, df: 1, p-value: 0.0083) as the majority of journalists (M = 107.50;SD = 126.572) and 85% of the spectators confirmed feeling very secure(M = 369.50; SD = 361.332).


Customer service in the event rises from the expectation of customers. Spectators seek comfort and security when attending the games, but have some directions to follow from buying the access tickets, to being seated and watching the game. Journalists enter the venue with an accreditation card, which was issued based on a previous security check. The situation explains the timing gap between journalists and spectators. Somehow, media people are trusted customers, so the screening at the gate venue is quick, and accurate recommendations during GSS training were delivered to pay special attention to them, because any incident could spread through the media and ultimately hurt the reputation of the organization. Spectators are considered as unknown customers, so GSS persons deal with different people with diverse backgrounds and different social levels. As a consequence, spectators judged that the security procedure timing exceeds the promised timing. It may represent confusion regarding the waiting time on line and the time spent on the security check before entering the venue, yet statistics confirmed the different attitudes of both the journalists and spectators.

Accordingly, journalists were comfortable to that timing whereas spectators were not. The timing target was not realistic for spectators, if we identify the screeners’ duty as searching bags, magnetometer operation, wanding, physical search, and ticket or accreditation checking, how can we set 30 seconds as the timing target? Event managers with GSS must adjust their timing target vis-à-vis the spectators, media, and especially human rights institutions. Statistics advise to keep the 30 seconds with journalists and aim 1 minute for spectators. Data shows that 1-minute target time for security procedure covers ¾ among spectators, and such timing agreement could be comfortable.

To ensure the safety and enjoyment of all spectators at the Olympics, spectators carrying forbidden items will be asked to either return them, or to dispose them immediately. Prohibited items at security gates cause the delay in entrance and may involve the customer into extra security procedures. That is why, the factor information before the games makes a smoother security-spectator contact. Journalists insisted that they were vaguely informed about the regulations regarding the entrance of the venue. Part of this position is due to the frequency of dealing with such events. Journalists are professionals who are used to attending conferences and events within the same security circumstances, so their jobs expose them to a large experience dealing with security in portals daily and maybe dozens of times. On the contrary, spectators are amateurs, usually with little previous experience in mega events, and sometimes, the excitement to the event makes the spectator forget about the instructions related to the security procedures and even if EMs did spread the information via the media, in the ticket, and by postings around the venues. It is understandable that all spectators took some necessary precautions before coming to the venue. Thanks to this cooperation, their waiting time and the security maneuver took less time. Precautions regarding security procedures for journalists are part of their duties, thus no special focus was required. The study data sustained the first part of our hypothesis that offering the spectators’ service excellence depends on the time spent at the portal before entering the venue, the quality of communication, the staff serving them, and the information previously provided regarding the security measures. Both journalists and spectators were equally satisfied with the event as a whole. Moreover, satisfaction is often evaluated by the joy felt by the event customer; indeed, customers declared not being bothered by any delays and receiving a special warm welcome.

Security agencies attempt to stay out of sight by using an array of surveillance technologies. This approach creates different security belts (layers) around the venues. The sporting event customer prefers to feel secure without seeing too much security people. The study results gave us an idea about the assortment of security people at security portals. It was very important that respondents noticed that the security people they met are mostly mixed corps, or “not official,” that is to say corresponding to the objective of recent “security model,” ensuring utter safety while respecting spectators’ dignity and meeting with civilians in all phases of venue services.

It was obvious for event spectators and journalists that the security filter is strong and they feel very secure. Regarding service quality, many authors highlight that such a feeling is satisfactory enough to judge the event successful. “Technical challenges, among these, the first concern is to ensure the safety and security of competitors and of the public”(Johnson, 2008). Respondents also pointed out that any security failures are the responsibility of the Local Police or Mounted Police, then the City Head gave special importance to Politicians in the Government, because the concept of CI has been removed from the technical and scientific and introduced to the political agenda.

The data supported our full hypothesis, and a security model in sport events should respect both the entire protection of the venue and the value of human rights when welcoming spectators. Vancouver Olympic security was one of the most talked about and most important factors in having a successful event.“After the purpose of a law has ceased to exist, or after coming to realize that some measures are ineffective, freedom’s rights then can regain full validity. This will prevent freedom’s rights from being limited longer than is absolutely necessary” (Meyer, 2004).

Eventually, it is important to stress through Vancouver 2010 how our study has contributed to theory. Whereas most previous research about security in Mega Sport Events merely displayed the problem vaguely, our study attempts to give concrete standards that will pave the way for future events and research.

Kelly and Turley (2001) never mentioned the timing as a major criterion among many that determine the quality and the outcome of the Games. Beis et al.(2006) suggested multiplying mag-and-bag security gates to a venue entry, because a person queuing for security checking should not wait longer than three minutes, and our data categorized all respondents in their range of the real time spent for security measures. Lehtinen and Lehtinen (1991) analyzed the quality of service from many dimensions whereas Chelladurai and Chang(2000) built the service quality on three criteria and failed to specify how this was measured. Greenwell et al. (2002) associated customers’perceptions with customer satisfaction. Our classifications conduct us to match the timing with the comfort level according to each range of the timing spent at the gates.

In sport tourism, Kouthouris and Alexandris (2005) considered the quality service as an event planner’s ability to coordinate with visitors. Our study differentiated the journalists from the spectators in terms of how they cooperated by taking actions that helped in the security context before appearing in the venue. Earlier, most authors merely classified service quality from different perspectives, but mainly focused on the outcome quality (Brandy& Cronin, 2001; Ko & Pastore, 2004). Dwyer and Fredline in 2008 noticed that a sport event could be differentiated from another just by its quality of service. Our study quantified the satisfaction and the dissatisfaction about the service for both journalists and spectators.

May (2004) witnessed that athletes could be negatively influenced by an excessive security presence to the point that they get scared. Tsoukala (2007) noticed that human rights defenders refuse the domination of security fields on people. Thus, our study scanned visitors’ opinions about security people and the types of visible corps nearby and at portals.

The concept of liberty, as perceived by Ericson and Doyle (2004) and Botha(2010), is that terrorists keep entire populations in fear and in security, which precipitates the urge for more severe security measures. The 2010 Olympic Games testified that journalists and spectators equally felt secure and serene, and judged the security filter at the portal as ‘hard to very strong’. Therefore, our data demonstrated that attendees were not terrorized or destabilized thanks to the tougher security standards adopted by the organizers. Our data, then, further support Toohey and Taylor’s(2008) findings.

Whereas Owen’s conceptualization (2004) of security responsibility proved to be vague, Coaffee and Wood (2006) made different agencies and governments share security rather than restricting it to organizing committees. Our data specifically ranked the “local police or mounted police”and the “local city head” as the first ones responsible for preventing, or delaying any potential terrorist attack on a well-defined sporting event, but also highlighted the differences in rank ratio between journalists and spectators.

Ashworth (1998) and Waldron (2003) cleared the notion of balance between security and liberty, Tsoukala (2007) defined the protection of civil rights and liberties vis-à-vis of public order and Johnson (2008) confirmed that successful security operations must be proportionate with the level of threat. This study provided a final report about the different attitudes of journalists and spectators in terms of comfort and service quality and also confirmed that these respondents felt secure during V2010. “In general terms, for social scientists, the contemporary security processes at sport mega-events have very strong social, political, and geographical dimensions, as reflected through social relationships, the everyday politics of the “war on terror,”and urban redevelopment” (Giulianotti & Klauser, 2010).


Using event service volunteers to conduct the survey was helpful. With their accreditation passes, they were easily moving between portals and had greater access to diverse spectators in different areas. However, we did not use this advantage to touch intensely other details in the questionnaire. It was the work of experts who validated the survey as they trimmed the questionnaire to avoid falling in the discomfort of respondents!

An attractive area for further research is to excavate deeply the data and find the divergence between indoor and outdoor venues. Moreover, integrating the difference between Olympics and Paralympics may be an addition to testing the proposed model. London was awarded the right to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the United Kingdom suffered from recent terrorist attacks. “The 2012 Olympics will see further security legacies intechnological terms, including microphones attached to CCTV cameras and a massive extension of the national DNA database” (Giulianotti &Klauser, 2010). Then, which security model should they adopt in these Olympic Games? Contacts were made to scope a similar questionnaire with the games’ specification.


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